Kansas City, Mo. Veteran John Welbourn, who filled in at right tackle last year with mixed results, probably will take over for 12-Pro Bowl right guard Will Shields, Kansas City Chiefs President Carl Peterson said Monday.
Shields, 35, announced on his Web site Sunday that he was stepping down after an illustrious 14-year career in which he made 231 consecutive starts, counting playoff games, and tied the NFL record for most Pro Bowl selections.
His retirement was not unexpected, but no doubt will leave a hole in what had been for many years one of the NFL's finest blocking units.
"We've already made preparations for this by acquiring some talented veterans as well as younger offensive linemen," Peterson told reporters.
"I would say without question, nobody's going to fill those shoes. Nobody's going to be quite as good as Will Shields. That would be very, very difficult."
Shields, who strongly contemplated stepping down after the 2005 season, wrote on his site that the physical requirements of the game had become more difficult with each passing day.
"The decision to hang up my cleats has not been an easy one to make for me but one I knew I would eventually have to make," Shields wrote. "Today, I am letting everyone know that I am putting away my pads."
Peterson said the Chiefs would not necessarily shift their focus from defensive linemen to an offensive lineman in next week's draft.
"It's always hard to replace a Hall of Fame player, or a Pro Bowl player," Peterson said. "But it's still a team game. It is the five guys working together up front, six including the tight end. I think they would readily say that's so, as well as Will. The consistency is what you'll miss more than anything because he has been so consistently good.
"But changes in the National Football League happen every day. This is not one we're surprised at."